By Muambo Edward
Football Writer, kick442.com – Cameroon
Back-to-back CAF Champions League holders Esperance of Tunis were shown the door out of the competition despite their 1-0 second leg win over Zamalek of Cairo on Friday.
Zamalek came into this game with a-two-goals advantage, after winning the first leg 3-1 in Egypt. They qualified on a 3-2 aggregate score line and will face the winner of the double header between Raja of Casablanca and TP Mazembe in the semifinals.
Raja holds a 2-0 advantage over their Congolese opponents ahead of the return leg game this Saturday in Lubumbashi.
Esperance were counting on their away goal in the first leg, and would have qualified for the semifinals with two unanswered goals.
They had a dream start to the game, as they benefited from a penalty as early as the third minute. Algerian winger Billel Bensaha showed nerves of steel to give them the lead in a 60,000 capacity filled Rades Stadium.
The stakes of the game were high and the players demonstrated that with the numerous scuffles between both set of players. The first of such scuffles came immediately after the opening goal, when Zamalek’s goalkeeper Abou Gamal tried to hold on to the ball. The Esperance players expressed their urgency by fighting for the ball to speed up the restart.
Eight players went into the referee’s book, five from Zamalek and three from Esperance with a total of 56 fouls committed in the clash of North African giants, with nine African Champions League titles between them [five for Zamalek and four for Esperance].
Despite their dream start, Moine Chaâbani’s men failed to get the much needed second goal thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Abou Gamal and the resilient defending of the Zamalek back line led by a certain Mahmoud Hamdy.
Zamalek’s coach Patrice Carteron has now won three and lost one of his last four games against Esperance. Beating them first with Raja in the CAF Super Cup in 2019, and twice with Zamalek this year.
Tunisian hopes for African Champions League glory are now on the shoulders of Etoile Sahel of Sousse.
Etoile will play host to Wydad Athletic of Casablanca in Rades on Saturday, given that their home ground is under renovation.
They were beaten 2-0 in Morocco and have a mountain to climb to turn the tie around.
Elsewhere, record eight-time winners Al Ahly of Egypt have a-two-goal advantage over 2016 winners Mamelodi Sundowns of Pretoria. Pitso Mosimane’s charges will count on the passionate Massadawana home support to overturn the tie.
Both Al Ahly and Wydad will be hoping that their left backs don’t forget their scoring boots at home for their respective return leg games. Wydad’s left-back Mohamed Nahiri scored both of their goals in the first leg against Etoile Sahel while Al Ahly’s left back Ali Maaloul also bagged a brace against Sundowns in Egypt.
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